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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Math Menus and Why I'm Sold on Them

I've seen a few math menu ideas out there without really giving them a lot of thought. Many of them were being used in math workshops for younger grades. But last weekend I was trying to come up with a way for my students to get more practice with multiplying fractions and I started looking for some ideas. I found a math menu for dividing fractions on the website Math for Love and I fell for the idea of a math menu for review. My students needed more practice and I needed something new. I thought a math menu would be perfect for fulfilling both those needs.

A math menu is basically a list of tasks for students to choose from. They can be games, task cards, sorts, tasks....anything you want them to be. I created mine menu with real-world math problems relating to multiplication of fractions. I wanted my students to be able to demonstrate their problem solving skills and their knowledge of multiplying fractions.

The tasks are divided into appetizers, entrées, and desserts.  The four appetizers are all meant to give your students a quick warm up that everyone can be successful with. They include working with equivalent fractions, simplifying fractions and addition of fractions.  The entrées are the main tasks. There are ten different entrées that progress in difficulty. They include real-life problems about sharing sandwiches, leftover bottles of glue, making orange juice, filling boxes of chocolates, adjusting recipes, calculating sale prices, and more. The dessert pages all focus on mathematical thinking. They allow students to consider justifications about multiplying fractions and analyze errors.

I decided to only allow my students two days to complete this menu, so I assigned everyone a minimum of 2 appetizers, 3 entrées, and 2 desserts of their choice. I think they could have easily worked on this for another day or two. They loved having the autonomy to make curriculum decisions for themselves. The variety of difficulty on the main tasks provided something for everyone. I witnessed students read over a task and decide it was too easy or too hard and switch to something that was a better level for them and my students really showed mathematical perseverance with these tasks. 

While they worked on the tasks, I had time to work with individual students who needed extra support. It gave me time to discuss student work and mathematical thinking with students individually. Which was a great informal assessment to help me know if they were ready to move on. But my most pleasant surprise came from a student who worked for an hour on one of the main tasks.  And I mean worked hard for a solid hour. When the time came to end math for the day, he said to me, "I can't believe I worked the whole time on this problem." This is the student who often gives up when something looks or feels like work - whether it's easy or hard. It kind of felt like payday minus actual money in the bank.

At the end of the second day, I had my students put their tasks in order with the menu and staple them together to turn in and that same student came and told me, "We need to do more of these. They were fun." Really? A math menu for review just engaged my hard to engage student? Oh yes, I'll be making more math menus. 

If you are interested in my Math Menu: Multiplying Fractions,  it's available at TpT. You can also check out other products for fifth grade at Focused on Fifth's Products for Payday linky.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Are You Reading? Linky

Today I am posting about what my students are reading. I wanted to get my kids reading more about American history to go along with our social studies content and many of my students love comic books, so I ordered the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales graphic novels for my classroom library. My students are absolutely eating these books up. There is a waiting list for each book, kids are begging to be next and our librarian is trying to order them in so we can have multiple copies.

This is a World War 1 tale.

Yep, it's about the Donner Party.

And there's an abolitionist tale.

A Civil War tale.

And a Revolutionary War tale too.

And coming out at the end of March is...

A Texas tale of the Alamo. Note to self: Preorder soon!

To see what others are reading, head on over to Focused on Fifth. You can also link up yourself. Happy Reading!